Can an academic programme embrace various fields of studies without exceeding existing educational standards? This question was raised by Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Head of the Institute for Cognitive Studies, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Education at the panel discussion ‘Digitalisation in liberal arts education’ that took place in the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation.

tatyana vladimirovna chernigovskaya

The professor of St Petersburg University pointed out that in the 21st century the world has changed. Intellectual technologies in communication and distance learning, which society has faced in the last year due to the pandemic, are not the only reason behind the changes. Nevertheless, they played an important role in this process. ‘Civilisation went into a different direction: separating sciences by branch was left in the 20th or even in the 19thcentury. Such areas as biophysics, physicochemistry or genetic engineering have appeared. Therefore, it is necessary to change the classification of nomenclature of fields of studies,’ Tatiana Chernigovskaya said. ‘However, we are definitely dissatisfied with the changes that are being introduced in classification.’

Tatiana Chernigovskaya explained that the field of neurolinguistics and cognitive science has recently been viewed as exotic. It now includes linguistics, cognitive psychology, neurosciences, speech technology, artificial intelligence science as well as philosophy that helps to raise questions and to interpret answers.

Language is studied by many specialists from different fields – as many as there are aspects to it. If we neglect one aspect, for example the one my colleagues and I deal with, brain science will develop in the wrong direction. People who ‘know everything about the brain’ cannot possibly not know about phonemes and morphemes; what a human language is; and how it is different from other communication systems used by all living creatures.

Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Head of the Institute for Cognitive Studies at St Petersburg University

According to Tatiana Chernigovskaya, convergence of different areas of science is unavoidable. Speech recognition and synthesis is one of the aspects of artificial intelligence science. Specialists in this field of study need to know linguistics. Also, speech therapists and pathologists must know linguistics in order to avoid mistakes both in research and – what is much more dangerous – in practice. Even schoolteachers must know about child psychology more than they were taught at university.

‘We urgently need to include different fields of knowledge in training specialists who are formally called linguists, historians, biologists or psychologists. This is long overdue. But how can we improve the existing situation? This is a challenging question, as there are standards that regulate the number of hours in the curriculum, and we cannot exceed them. So it means we need to filter and select areas of science,’ Tatiana Chernigovskaya summed up. ‘We need to work out an algorithm that would help us find the way out of this situation.’